Cognitive Mindfulness #15

Schema for cognitive differenciation between c...

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Ronald Langacker is considered one of the founding fathers of the Cognitive Linguistics enterprise, his seminal work in Cognitive Grammar has influenced pretty much everyone who does anything at all in Cognitive Linguistics.  Anyway, here is a quote that talks about the conventional meaning of a lexical item, this grounds the notion of encyclopedic knowledge:

A speaker’s knowledge of the conventional value of a lexical item cannot in general be reduced to a single structure, such as the prototype or the highest-level schema.  For one thing, not every lexical category has a single, clearly determined prototype, nor can we invariably assume a high-level schema fully compatible with the specifications of every node in the network…Even if such a structure is posited, moreover, there is no way to predict precisely which array of extensions and elaborations – out of all those that are conceivable and linguistically plausible – have in fact achieved conventional status.  The conventional meaning of a lexical item must be equaled with the entire network, not with any single node. [Langacker, 1990, emphasis mine]

The conventional meaning of a word (or any lexical item) has to include the entire range of possible meanings; the conventional meaning is the sum of all particular meanings.  What does this mean for us when we build models of reality?  How does this inform anthropological investigation?  How does this inform our approaches to categorization?

Bibliography

Geeraerts, D. editor. (2006) Cognitive Linguistics: Basic Readings, Mouton de Gruyter

Langacker, R.W. (1990). Introduction in Concept, Image, and Symbol: The Cognitive Basis of Grammar, Mouton de Gruyter (Reprint of ‘An introduction to cognitive grammar’. Cognitive Science 10(1):1-40, 1986.)

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